RENTON — While Seahawks coach Pete Carroll was happy to call one starting position Monday — center — he somewhat surprisingly hedged on another, the right cornerback spot.
First, center, where Carroll said Ethan Pocic will start against Atlanta. That’s no surprise as Pocic has consistently run with the starters the last few weeks after overtaking free agent signee B.J. Finney.
But Carroll confirmed it Monday, noting also that Pocic had offseason surgery to fix a sports hernia issue. Being healthy, Carroll said, has contributed strongly to Pocic having a good camp in what is his fourth season with the team and last on his original rookie contract. Carroll earlier during camp also noted this is the first time Pocic has worked exclusively at center, which was his primary position at LSU, having played mostly guard for Seattle his first three years.
“He had a great camp,” Carroll said. “He had offseason surgery on something that’s been bothering him for a number of years. … He did a great job in camp and looked terrific and was our most experienced guy with handling the whole system and all and it showed. And so we’re fired up to see him go.”
Finney signed a two-year deal worth up to $8 million that indicated the team viewed him as its next starting center, especially after the Seahawks cut Justin Britt in April (Britt also was still recovering from an ACL injury).
But Pocic overtook Finney pretty quickly into camp and for now will get the shot to make the position his own. He has 16 starts in his career but only five since his rookie year in 2017 when he got 11 starts at guard. He played only four games last year due to back and sports hernia injuries.
That solidifies the offensive line with the opener against Atlanta on tap Sunday with Duane Brown set to start at left tackle, Mike Iupati at left guard, rookie Damien Lewis at right guard and Brandon Shell at right tackle.
As for the right cornerback spot, that figures to eventually go to Quinton Dunbar.
But Dunbar arrived late to training camp after being taken off the commissioner’s exempt list after charges were dropped in a robbery case in Florida, and then has had two separate stints away from the team in the last week or so dealing with a death in his native Florida. He missed practice last Thursday to attend a funeral and was not at practice Monday while still in the league’s COVID-19 testing protocol.
Depending on the readiness of Dunbar — acquired from Washington for a fifth-round pick in March — the Seahawks could go with Tre Flowers, the starter there the last two seasons, to open against Atlanta, especially since Flowers has had a good camp in his third year.
“Tre came back with a level of confidence and two years behind him there that he’s benefited from,” Carroll said. “He had a really good camp.”
Carroll also hinted that the Seahawks could rotate at some positions where they might not normally due to the fact the team had no preseason games. One reason would be to not overwork anyone, with the Seahawks having had only one live scrimmage so far, and also to make sure players who deserved it got some playing time. That could point to Seattle using both Dunbar and Flowers on Sunday.
Seahawks re-sign Nick Bellore while Phil Haynes goes on IR
In what was an expected move, the Seahawks re-signed fullback Nick Bellore on Monday after he was released Saturday, making room on the roster by putting guard Phil Haynes on injured reserve.
As a vested veteran, Bellore did not have to go through waivers so there was no danger of him being claimed (though he could have signed with a team had it made an offer) and that allowed the Seahawks to carry Haynes on the 53-man roster to start the season so he could go on in-season IR and come back later in the year.
In fact, due to changes made this year due to COVID-19, players need to sit out only three weeks once they go on IR before they can return. Teams can also bring back as many players as they want from in-season IR.
Carroll said Haynes, a second-year player out of Wake Forest, has “a hip issue that we’re concerned about and we’re gonna see how it goes here.”
Haynes going on IR leaves Seattle with nine offensive linemen on the 53-man roster to start the season
Bellore returns as the team’s fullback and a core special teams player. It’s the second straight year he has been released at the cutdown date and then re-signed to give Seattle some roster flexibility.
— Carroll said WR Phillip Dorsett, who has been dealing with a sore foot, practiced Monday and is on track to be able to play against Atlanta.
— Carroll said he had no new information to pass along about the status of receiver Josh Gordon, who remains on the suspended list. Seattle signed Gordon last Thursday, raising hope a decision may be made soon by the league. While suspended he cannot practice and does not count against the team’s 53-mann roster.
— Carroll revealed that the team captains this year as voted by teammates are Russell Wilson (offense), Bobby Wagner (defense) and Neiko Thorpe (special teams). It is the second straight year those three have been the captains together. Wilson has been a captain every year since 2013 and Wagner has been a captain five times in his career and the sole defensive captain the past three years.
— Carroll said each of the three players who started the year on the non-football injury list or physically unable to perform list — running back Rashaad Penny, tight end Colby Parkinson and defensive end Darrell Taylor — should have a chance to come back after the mandatory six weeks they’ll have to sit out. “We see the future unfolding in the way that these guys are all going to contribute to us,” Carroll said. “So we’re going to get a good boost from those guys when when they can come back. They’re all competing to be back at the earliest date possible.”
— The Seahawks are now in regular game week mode, meaning they will be off Tuesday and then practice Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. The Seahawks will then leave for Atlanta on Friday.
— The Seahawks signed cornerback Linden Stephens, waived Sunday to make room for the addition of linebacker D’Andre Walker off waivers, to the practice squad.